Thessaly offers a wonderful variety of sites to see for visitors all year round from the impressive Meteora to Mount Pelion and Volos with its busy port and ferries to the Sporades islands. With many archaeological sites, fabulous beaches, and picturesque villages in the mountains to explore, hiking is a popular activity in the region. For drivers, renting a car and exploring Thessaly at your own pace is highly recommended.
Exploring the Meteora is probably the most impressive thing to do in Thessaly. Meteora, meaning hanging from the rocks, are actually huge limestone rock formations growing out of large valley. On top of these rocks, impressive monasteries were constructed in the Byzantine era. Out of the 22 monasteries that were established in the region at that time, six are currently operating today and are open for visitors and the view from the top of the monasteries is breathtaking. In recent years, rock climbing has thrived in Meteora, but with certain rules to follow so that the spiritual atmosphere of the area remains undisturbed.
For drivers, the area around Meteora has plenty of sites to explore including the prehistoric cave of Theopetra, only a 10-minute drive from Kalambaka, reopened recently and is a unique archaeological site. The beautiful town of Trikala, crossed by the Litheos River, is also a great place to explore. The stone bridge of Porta or Agios Vissarion is near the village of Pyli, while a ski center operates in winter in Pertouli village. The charming Lake of Plastira, although artificial, perfectly complements the surrounding environment and provides an enchanting setting for hiking.
Mount Pelion forms a lovely peninsula between the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea featuring small stone villages in the mountains, fabulous beaches along the coastline, and a verdant landscape crossed by many old footpaths, a dream for hiking enthusiasts.
Great hiking routes in Pelion include from Makrinitsa to Portaria, from Milies to Tsagarada, from Tsagarada to Mylopotas, from Argalasti to Milina, and from Trikeri to Agia Kyriaki.
The fifth largest city in Greece, Volos is also located in Pelion and its port offers ferries to the Sporades islands, Skiathos, Skopelos, and Alonissos. Founded in the mid-19th century, it is a lively city with a great waterfront lined with many pastry shops, cafes-bars, restaurants, and mezedopolia for visitors to enjoy the delicacies of the area.
The waterfront is also the place where the locals stroll before or after dinner and it can get especially crowded on Friday and Saturday nights. The surrounding streets are also bustling with life and with many shops to browse.
The Pelion villages perched on the pine-covered mountains can also be seen from Volos and the view is especially entrancing at night when only the lights of the villages can be seen in the distance.
For those interested in culture, the Archaeological Museum of Volos includes items on view found in the surrounding areas that date from the Bronze Age up to the Hellenistic period. The Municipal Gallery, housed in the Town Hall, exhibits a collection of paintings and sculptures by modern Greek artists.
Train enthusiasts will love the legendary old steam train of Pelion, popularly known as Moutzouris (Smudgy). This train line began operating in the late 19th century and played a key role in the development of Pelion and the overall region of Thessaly. Designed by the Italian engineer Evaristo de Chirico, son of the famous artist Giorgio de Chirico, construction of the line began in 1894 and a year later, it started operating, connecting Volos, the capital of the area, with Lehonia village. This section was 13 km long and crossed two bridges, one over Anavros River and the other over Vrihonas River.
In 1903, the railway line reached Milies village, which was 16 km away from Lehonia, at that point covering a total distance of 29 km. It also crossed six arched bridges, five of which were made entirely of stone and the sixth made of iron. Truly a masterpiece, the entire railway line was used to transport goods and passengers on short day trips. As the years passed and technology advanced, the use of the steam train of Pelion gradually declined.
Following the Second World War, operation of the train ceased. However, just a few years ago the train was put back into operation, connecting some of the charming villages in the area, mostly as a tourist attraction, but also for sentimental reasons.
Now, it runs from Ano Lehonia village, crossing the villages of Agios Athanasios, Agia Triada, Ano Gatzea, and Pinakates, and arrives in Milies village. With a speed of 25 km/hour, the steam train crosses stone bridges and the breathtaking natural landscape of Pelion, while each railway station is also of great architectural interest.
In summer, visitors enjoy the picturesque beaches and the green mountains of Pelion and in winter, the beautiful mountains of the peninsula are decked in white and the snowy slopes draw visitors to the ski center in Chania to ski or to walk in the snow-dusted paths and around the welcoming traditional villages of the area.
ATHENS - With flights already filling and tour packages brimming over, Greece is readying for a banner year with reports that besides the big markets such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy that Austrians are lining up to come.
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